On Sunday March 27, 2011 So Nakagawa and I ski'd to the summit of Crowfoot Mountain under a clear, nearly windless spring / winter day.
I haven't stood on a peak since I scrambled Midnight Peak way back on October 30 2010! I think that 5 months between peaks has to be some sort of new record for me...
The last few outings I've had to the Rockies have been marked by cloud, wind and dreariness. So and I were both looking forward to a nice spring day with sunshine and melting snow but we knew that this was unlikely.
The weather forecast didn't look too bad or too promising. It was calling for possible sunny sky in the morning and flurries in the afternoon. Anytime there's any clouds in the forecast, the Wapta is usually in a whiteout. The drive to the mountains didn't help our confidence in the weather. Calgary was socked in fog and snow and the highways were icy. As we drove into the mountains the weather remained cloudy but much drier. Just as we drove into the Bow Lake parking lot we could see blue sky above the Wapta! Cloudy everywhere BUT the Wapta? This was a good omen!
So had never been up the Bow Canyon before. I warned him about the 'bump' and we set off across the lake. (You gain height and then lose most of it before hitting the canyon...) It's always cold on Bow Lake. We could see a solo skier way ahead of us. I wondered if he was doing Crowfoot Mountain since solo skiers rarely go up to the Wapta but often do Crowfoot. We had harnesses and glacier gear along but we weren't sure if it was 'needed'. Technically you should rope up and take all precautions when venturing onto any glacier, but the glacier on Crowfoot has a tame reputation and with a huge snowpack we weren't planning to rope up unless whiteout conditions or no track conspired against us.
I've gone past the turnoff to Crowfoot many times on my way to the Bow Hut but I still wasn't 100% sure where the proper trail went. We still missed Chic's recommended turnoff and ended up on the right side of the drainage but we were following obvious ski ascent tracks so I continued up on a clear track from a few days previous. The lone skier was out of sight and we weren't following his track anymore.
After a steep grind through the trees we topped out on climber's right of Chic Scott's route. We could see the solo skier again and slowly followed our track as it trended to climber's left to meet up with the track he was on. The day was turning out to be absolutely glorious with sunshine and some wispy cloud and very little wind. We continued to shed layers as we grunted up the pass. Chic mentions that the trip is 14km return but we found out from So's GPS that it's actually 20km which makes more sense. Once we got out of the canyon we pretty much never stopped climbing until the summit - it was a grunt! Most people do not get the pleasure of skiing right to the summit of Crowfoot but we kept our skis on the whole time which was very nice.
The summit views were sublime with Balfour stealing the show. I'm still proud of summiting that gorgeous beast! The wind was biting so we didn't spend much time on the summit. We ski'd down in about 4" of powder / facets on a firm supportive layer - very nice and quick! After a brief lunch stop in the warm sun below the subpeaks of Crowfoot we exited the canyon and had a quick ski across Bow Lake on an icy track.
Our round trip time of 6 hours was pretty speedy but it didn't feel too rushed either. A highly recommended ski trip with gorgeous views and a fast descent.
The clouds appear to be thinning as we go across Bow Lake.
Looking back at the ascent route for Jimmy Simpson.
Lots of snow in the canyon this spring!
So comes up out of the canyon.
The solo skier is way ahead of us going up to the col.
Looking ahead to the col. It's further than it looks and that's not the summit yet either! This is great terrain for the descent.
So skis up to the col with Mount Thompson and Baker looming behind him.
The pass is barren.
As we crest the col we are treated to a gorgeous view of the king of the Wapta - Mount Balfour.
Balfour with mountains and cloud behind.
Looking southwest from near the summit ridge at Balfour and the Balfour Glacier (left). I still remember the great ski run down that glacier!
The summit is near!
Balfour is getting envelped in cloud as I gain the summit.
Hector is buried in clouds.
Look carefully and you can spot the ski track going up to the Balfour high col.
So approaches the summit of Crowfoot Mountain.
Forbes is visible in the distance:
Vern on the summit of Crowfoot Mountain.
So begins the awesome ski run down!
Continuing our awesome descent with the Wapta slowly getting more clouds.
The final grunt of the day is regaining the 'bump' before the lake - sans ski skins!